On March 4, 2014, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, told almost 3,000 delegates at the National People’s Congress and many more watching live on state television, “We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty.”
2014年3月4日,中国总理李克强在全国人民代表大会上对近3000名代表和更多通过官方电视台观看现场直播的人说,“我们要像对贫困宣战一样,坚决向污染宣战。”
The statement broke from the country’s longstanding policy of putting economic growth over environment, and many wondered whether China would really follow through.
这份声明打破了中国长期以来把经济增长置于环境之上的政策,很多人怀疑中国是否真的会坚持到底。
Four years after that declaration, the data is in: China is winning, at record pace. In particular, cities have cut concentrations of fine particulates in the air by 32 percent on average, in just those four years.
四年后的今天,数据出来了:中国正在获胜,并且是以创纪录的速度。特别是过去这四年里,城市空气中细颗粒物浓度平均降低32%。
The speed of the anti-pollution drive has raised important questions about its human costs.  But if China sustains these reductions, recent research by my colleagues and me indicates that residents will see significant improvements to their health, extending their life spans by months or years.
治理污染运动的速度引出了关于人力成本的重要问题。但如果中国保持这种速度,我和同事最近的研究表明,民众会看到自己的健康状况出现显著改善,寿命延长数月或数年。
行为艺术家孔宁。近期的一次街头行为艺术表演中,为了提高人们对北京空气污染的认知,她身着表现黑色颗粒物的裙子。
行为艺术家孔宁。近期的一次街头行为艺术表演中,为了提高人们对北京空气污染的认知,她身着表现黑色颗粒物的裙子。 Ng Han Guan/Associated Press
How did China get here? In the months before the premier’s speech, the country released a national air quality action plan that required all urban areas to reduce concentrations of fine particulate matter pollution by at least 10 percent, more in some cities. The Beijing area was required to reduce pollution by 25 percent, and the city set aside an astounding $120 billion for that purpose.
中国是怎么做到的?在总理发表讲话之前的几个月里,中国发起了一个全国空气质量行动计划,要求所有城市地区的细颗粒物污染浓度至少降低10%,部分城市的目标定得更高。北京地区被要求将污染减少25%。为此,北京留出了惊人的1200亿美元
To reach these targets, China prohibited new coal-fired power plants in the country’s most polluted regions, including the Beijing area. Existing plants were told to reduce their emissions. If they didn’t, the coal was replaced with natural gas. Large cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, restricted the number of cars on the road. The country also reduced its iron- and steel-making capacity and shut down coal mines.
为了达到这些目标,中国禁止在污染最严重的地区,包括北京新建燃煤发电厂。现有的煤电厂被要求减少排放。如果不照做,煤炭就会被换成天然气。包括北京、上海和广州在内的大城市限制上路的车辆数量。中国还降低钢铁制造产能,关停煤矿
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Some of the actions went from aggressive to extraordinary. For example, the ministry of environmental protection released a 143-page “battle plan” last summer that included removing the coal boilers many homes and businesses used for winter heating — even though replacements were not yet available everywhere. This left some homeowners, businesses and even students without heat this winter.
部分行动从强硬走向了极端。比如,环保部去年夏天发布了一份143页的“作战计划”,其中包括拆除很多家庭和企业用于冬季取暖的燃煤锅炉——但替代品并没有全面到位。这导致今年冬天一些房主、企业甚至学生没有供暖。
Over the past few months, news began to trickle in that the efforts were working. So I decided to dig deeper. Using data from almost 250 government monitors throughout the country, which closely matches monitors maintained by the United States embassy in Beijing and consulates around the country, I found major improvements.
过去几个月里,开始陆续传出相关行动正在发挥作用的新闻。于是我决定进行更深入的研究。利用来自全国近250台政府监测设备的数据,我发现情况有了重大改善。这与北京的美国大使馆和全国各地领事馆的监测结果非常接近。
Although most regions outpaced their targets, the most populated cities had some of the greatest declines. Beijing’s readings on concentrations of fine particulates declined by 35 percent; Hebei Province’s capital city, Shijiazhuang, cut its concentration by 39 percent; and Baoding, called China’s most polluted city in 2015, reduced its concentration by 38 percent.
尽管大部分地区都超过了原定目标,但一些降幅最大的情况发生在人口最多的城市。北京的细颗粒物浓度下降35%,河北省会石家庄下降39%,被称作2015年中国污染最严重城市的保定下降38%。
To investigate the effects on people’s lives in China, I used two of my studies (more here and here) to convert the fine particulate concentrations into their effect on life spans. This is the same method that underlies the Air Quality-Life Index that can be explored here. These studies are based on data from China, so they don’t require extrapolation from the United States or some other country with relatively low concentrations of pollution.
为了调查这对中国民众生活的影响,我利用自己的两项研究(欲知详情请点击这里这里),把细颗粒物浓度转化成对寿命的影响。这也是空气质量生活指数(Air Quality-Life Index)的基本原理,可点击此处查看详情。这些研究是基于来自中国的数据,因此不需要从美国或其他某个污染浓度相对较低的国家进行推断。
The results suggest that China’s fight against pollution has already laid the foundation for extraordinary gains in life expectancy. Applying this method to the available data from 204 prefectures, residents nationally could expect to live 2.4 years longer on average if the declines in air pollution persisted.
结果表明,中国对抗污染的斗争已经为预期寿命的显著增长奠定了基础。应用这一方法对204个地区的现有数据进行分析,若空气污染持续下降,将使全国居民平均多活2.4年。
The roughly 20 million residents in Beijing would live an estimated 3.3 years longer, while those in Shijiazhuang would add 5.3 years, and those in Baoding 4.5 years. Notably, my research suggests that these improvements in life expectancy would be experienced by people of all ages, not just the young and old.
北京大约2000万居民的寿命将延长3.3年,石家庄居民为5.3年,保定居民4.5年。值得注意的是,我的研究表明,这些预期寿命的增长出现在人口各年龄段,而不只是年轻人和老人。
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To put the astounding scale and speed of China’s recent progress in context, it’s useful to think back to the severe pollution levels in many American cities in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in the Rust Belt.
为了在大背景下观察中国近些年令人震惊的发展规模和发展速度,我们可以回顾一下上世纪五六十年代许多美国城市的严重污染,尤其是“铁锈带”(Rust Belt)。
The U.S. Clean Air Act is widely regarded as having produced large reductions in air pollution. In the four years after its 1970 enactment, American air pollution declined by 20 percent on average. But it took about a dozen years and the 1981-1982 recession for the United States to achieve the 32 percent reduction China has achieved in just four years.
人们普遍认为,是美国的《清洁空气法》(Clean Air Act)大量减少了空气污染。在1970年法案通过的四年后,美国的空气污染平下降20%。但美国又花了十多年的时间,经历了1981至1982年的大萧条,才达到了中国只花了四年就实现的32%的削减。
Of course, air pollution levels still exceed China’s own standards and far surpass World Health Organization recommendations for what is considered safe. Bringing all of China into compliance with its own standards would increase average life expectancies by an additional 1.7 years (as measured in the areas where data is available). Complying with the stricter World Health Organization standards instead would yield 4.1 years.
当然,中国目前的空气污染水平仍超过它自己的标准,也远远超过被世界卫生组织(World Health Organization)视为安全的推荐标准。中国若全面符合其自身标准,平均预期寿命将提高1.7年(根据有数据地区的测量结果)。若符合更严格的世界卫生组织标准,则会提高4.1年。
Whether Chinese citizens can expect to capture these additional improvements — and even sustain the existing gains — comes back to the balance between economic growth and environmental quality. China’s early reductions in air pollution have been achieved through an engineering-style fiat that dictates specific actions, rather than relying on markets to find the least expensive methods to reduce pollution.
不论中国公民是否能指望得上享有这些额外的增长,甚至是否能保持现有的收获,都得回到经济增长和环境质量的平衡之中。中国空气质量的改善,早期是通过对具体行为作出规定的工程型命令来实现的,而不是依靠市场来寻找花费最少的方法。
It’s an approach that has come with some real costs — as the many people left without heat this winter could attest. Yet further improvements will also be much costlier than necessary if they too are pursued by fiat, particularly with many of the easier fixes having already been made.
这个方法造成了一些实际成本,许多在这个冬天没有了暖气的人们可以证明。如果仍然依靠命令,那么进一步改善的代价也将更加昂贵,远非必要,尤其在许多更简单的措施已经有了成效的情况下。
In the decades after enactment of the Clean Air Act, American policymakers have used many tools to reduce pollution, with market-based regulations having proved the most cost-effective. Although China is experimenting with a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide, it has not yet turned to such policies to fight conventional pollution.
在《清洁空气法》颁布后的几十年里,美国的决策者为减少污染使用过许多手段,而事实证明基于市场的管控成本效益最高。尽管中国正在尝试二氧化碳排放限额与交易系统,但尚未使用这类政策对抗传统污染。
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It would be quite a twist if so-called Communist China ultimately wins the war against pollution by embracing market-based regulations, while the United States continues to use them only intermittently.
如果所谓的共产主义中国最终能靠采用基于市场的管理方法打赢这场空气污染之战,而美国仍旧只是间断地使用这一方法,那还是相当令人意外的。